INSIGHTS ON DEATH & DYING: Taking the mask off

February 2005 
Volume 35  Number 2
Pages 66 - 67
  PDF Version Available!

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Volume 35(2)             February 2005             p 66–67 Taking the mask off [INSIGHTS ON DEATH & DYING: PALLIATIVE CARE]


I read a column of yours in which you said you removed the oxygen mask from a dying patient's face because he wasn't struggling to breathe. When I mentioned this to one of my nursing colleagues, she said depriving a patient of supplemental oxygen is unacceptable because it would hasten his death. Can you explain your thinking? —N.W., TEX.

When a patient is in the final stages of illness and the goal is comfort care, I believe oxygen should be given only rarely because it may prolong the dying process. Oxygen isn't generally necessary for comfort. Morphine and lorazepam (Ativan) will do an excellent job of keeping a dying patient comfortable by sedating her and preventing respiratory ...

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